The Land Rover Defender…certainly one of the most (if not the most) iconic vehicles of all time. Granted, we are little biased here at SD Headquarters but nevertheless, what better vehicle to feature in our first post than the benchmark for 4×4 off-road enthusiasts abroad. What you know today as the Defender was made by Land Rover from 1983 – 2016…though technically not a Defender until 1991.
So long Series, hello Defender The first Landie 110 (or One Ten) rolled off the line in 1983, followed one year later by the 90 (Ninety). It was the successor to the popular Series run (I, II, III). The biggest improvement was roll-up windows versus sliding glass panels so the bar was pretty low to begin with. If you’ve read this far, then you probably already know the actual “Defender” moniker didn’t exist for another 7 years, when in 1991 Land Rover added the ‘Defender’ name to distinguish it from the incoming Discovery. If you are still reading this and you didn’t know that, then we welcome you to the inner sanctum of Rover Obsession…trust us, it will happen.
What changed? Changing very little in exterior design throughout its entire lifespan, it’s hard for even the most hardcore enthusiasts to distinguish model years simply by looking at it…you have to look very closely for internal vs external door handles, fender flares, steering wheels, center consoles, etc…what other car in the world can age so gracefully over 33 years? Sadly though, here in the US we were all but robbed of ever being able to enjoy these. It took the Land Rover company 10 years to share its toys with us. And even then they were stingy as hell (it actually wasn’t their fault…blame it on the US govt strict emissions and safety regs).
Introduction to the US In 1993, LRNA decided to bring in only 500 D110s, all numbered and badged. That was it, never again did a D110 cross the pond. Following that ’93 run, in 1994 we were lucky enough to see the 2-door Defender 90 version roll ashore. But sadly this wouldn’t last long either…approximately only 6100 Defender 90’s were imported into North America in 1994, 1995, and 1997 and became known as NAS ‘North American Spec’ (numbered on rear badges). That missing year of 1996 is no mistake…issues with safety regulations once again plagued the relationship and so LRNA didn’t send any ’96 model years over. NAS Defenders had to meet specific US EPA guidelines so some differences do exist between same model year ROW and NAS Defenders (mostly safety related).
So can you really daily one of these? They’re not fast, they’re not entirely comfortable or reliable…they’re expensive to buy and expensive to fix. Many shops run the other way when asked if they can work on them. They leak everywhere unless they’re out of fluids. It’s very rare to have A/C and as much as we love to raise those bulhead vents, admittedly they do nothing unless the ambient air temp is less than your core body’s. It’s not unusual for one, two, even three warning lights to be on at any given time. They really don’t respect you in anyway other than to keep you out of trouble off the beaten path. The good news is, most of them already have racked up well over 100k miles, so you’re not saving miles by saving it for the weekend (or for the next owner). Believe it or not, they’re also not that rare in relative collector car terms. Remember, over 6000 made it to the US alone. Not to mention the tens-of-thousands world wide if you’re ok with a Rest of World (ROW) truck. So compared to a Ferrari 335, they’re plentiful in the market.
The NAS versions are V8’s and the tdi 200 diesels are legal in the states as of 2016, so they have the horsepower to keep up with interstate traffic. Parking isn’t an issue unless of course you have a lift and rack on it making it impossible to fit in a garage. Though we can’t imagine that ever being the case. So why do we love them so much?! For the same reason you’re here…just look at it. They are very limited in production for the U.S., and there will never be another one like it…iconic timeless recognition.
So long Defender, hello classified ads. What should you look for if you’re in the market? RUST!! First and foremost, rust plagues many of these (body and frame). Be sure to check the bulkhead, firewall area, floor pans will commonly rot out to the double-plating, rear cross member is usually the first to go and check the door bottoms. They are notorious for leaking rain water in, so upon inspection best to spray it down to see where/if water is pouring in. Check for any signs of overheating issues or water in the oil. Huge plus if the seller has extensive evidence of maintenance history. Does it look like it’s been mostly a mall-crawler or is there Georgia red clay hiding up on the frame outriggers. And lastly, how original is it…many have been modified and lost their original bumpers, wheels, and seats. There are very few electronics issues compared to it’s brethren Rovers and none of these were equipped with the finicky electronic air suspensions seen on the Range Rovers of similar years. Be sure to check the online forums for technical help like DefenderSource, NAS-ROW, and RangeRovers.net.
Production of the Defender as we know it ended in January 2016…the Defender is markedly one of the top iconic classic off-road enthusiasts vehicles of all time, and we don’t see that distinction ever going any where. Rovers have a bad reputation in the car world when it comes to reliability…some of this warranted but most of it is hyperbolic claims (usually from those who have never owned one). Yes, they can be problematic, and things break possibly where they shouldn’t, but if you lower your expectations just a bit, you can really enjoy the best #4x4xFar.
“I spent most of my money on booze and Land Rovers, the rest I just wasted.” – Author unknown
Second Daily Report Card
|Repair Costs:||C (though much better if you can do your own repairs)|
|Collectability:||B (this could decline in 2018 and beyond as each year allows for newer imports)|
|Avg. Cost:||$40000 – $60000 (holding steady)|
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